Journal of Neurotrauma, Nov 2013

Rat substrains differ in the magnitude of spontaneous locomotor recovery and in the development of mechanical hypersensitivity after experimental spinal cord injury

Kjell J, Sandor K, Josephson A, Svensson CI, Abrams MB


A number of different rodent experimental models of spinal cord injury have been used in an attempt to model the pathophysiology of human spinal cord injury. As a result, interlaboratory comparisons of the outcome measures can be difficult. Further complicating interexperiment comparisons is the fact that the rodent response to different experimental models is strain-dependent. Moreover, the literature is abundant with examples in which the same injury model and strain result in divergent functional outcomes. The objective of this research was to determine whether substrain differences influence functional outcome in experimental spinal cord injury. We induced mild contusion spinal cord injuries in three substrains of Sprague-Dawley rats purchased from three different European breeders (Scanbur, Charles River, and Harlan) and evaluated the impact of injury on spontaneous locomotor function, hypersensitivity to mechanical stimulation, and bladder function. We found that Harlan rats regained significantly more hindlimb function than Charles River and Scanbur rats. We also observed substrain differences in the recovery of the ability to empty the bladder and development of hypersensitivity to mechanical stimulation. The Harlan substrain did not show any signs of hypersensitivity in contrast to the Scanbur and Charles River substrains, which both showed transient reduction in paw withdrawal thresholds. Lastly, we found histological differences possibly explaining the observed behavioral differences. We conclude that in spite of being the same strain, there might be genetic differences that can influence outcome measures in experimental studies of spinal cord injury of Sprague-Dawley rats from different vendors.


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